Schools Plan to Open in a Month

By DON STINE

Both Ocean Township and Neptune have adopted plans for school reopenings in September which will feature hybrid schedules that have students in school only two days a week and be taught remotely on other days.

Their plans had to be submitted to the county school officials earlier this week. Asbury Park, which was still formulating its plan, has until Fri., Aug. 7 to submit. Both Ocean Township and Neptune plan to open their schools Sept. 4.  The Asbury Park School district does not open until Sept. 8.

Under the plans for Ocean and Neptune districts, students with last names beginning with “A” through “K’ will attend their regular school for a full day on Monday and Tuesday. Students with last names “M” through “Z” will go to school on Thursday and Friday. All students will stay home for virtual classes on Wednesday, which will also be offered throughout the week to students at home.

“We have been asked to put together a reopening plan and that’s what we’ve done. We have been open-minded and realize conditions are changing every day. We have to watch and pay close attention,” Ocean Township Superintendent of Schools James Stefankiewicz said earlier this week.

“Under the current plan (the school board) is doing it the safest way possible but there is no 100 percent guarantee. If conditions change, perhaps we will reconsider remote options until conditions improve. It’s up to the Governor,” he said.

Neptune Superintendent of Schools Tami Crader said about 30 percent of parents surveyed said they are not comfortable sending their children to school.

“So, we have sent them another form to let us know they are requesting remote only but they have to let us know by the Aug. 10 deadline,” she said.

Stefankiewicz said some Ocean Township parents will probably choose all-remote learning and that number will not be known until results from a recent survey are tallied.

Each school district had to file their reopening plans with county education officials this week, at least 30 days before the first day of school. Ocean Township and Neptune schools open on Sept. 4.

“We will take it day-by-day. We are working to ensure our virtual (education) plan is as good as it can be so, if conditions put us in a place where we need to close, we are ready for remote learning. We will be ready to go no matter what conditions call for,” Stefankiewicz said.

Crader said Neptune could also go quickly to remote-only learning.

“We have always planned that way,” she said.

To maintain social distancing requirements, it is anticipated that there will be 12 or less students in a classroom in Ocean Township and 8 to 10 in Neptune, except class sizes may vary at the high schools. Crader said a normal class size in Neptune is usually 20 to 24 students.

Masks are required on the bus and in school for students and staff in both school districts. All schools will also be sanitized daily. Neptune has also ordered face shields for staff.

Ocean Township has ordered a 1,500 clear tri-folds made of plexiglass for desks or tables, to be used as needed, such as with students with a medical condition.

In Ocean Township students will have their temperatures checked as they come in every day and parents are being asked to give their children a health check each morning before sending them to school. Crader said Neptune’s policy on that issue is still being reviewed.

“The (reopening) plan itself is done but it may be tweaked along the way. But all major components are in place and the plans have been filed with the county,” Crader said.

Ocean Township’s 83-page reopening plan, with some power-point highlights, can be viewed at www.oceanschools.org. Survey results are also posted.

As far as teacher’s returning to work, Stefankiewicz said he thinks teachers are “very anxious” about returning.

“I think the staff wants to come back and be in school but I can completely understand their anxiety about it,” he said.

“I think everyone wants to come back to school and I think we all agree that it is important to run our schools. They are the hub of the community and bring students back to normalcy. We have some concerns and our staff will be cautious,” Crader said.

In a statement from Asbury Park school officials it said “ Asbury Park has designed a comprehensive re-entry plan that aligns high-quality teaching and learning and appropriate health and safety guidelines to three potential models: In-Person, Hybrid, and Full Remote Learning.”

The detailed plan will be available when it is submitted to the county.

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